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Health Disparities And Policy Changes That Create Healthy People

by GBAF mag
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Health disparity has become familiar terms in medical research, but surprisingly seldom are they defined precisely. Yet if the word “health disparity” was coined within the United States in 1990, it wasn’t intended to mean all possible existing health differences among all groups of individuals. Instead, the writer meant health disparity that is attributable to differences in life-style, environmental factors, and attitudes and beliefs. The writer also intended the term to include situations when persons who experience health disparity also experience other identifiable health problems.

These days, any persons who experience a noticeable difference in life-style, environmental factors, and attitudes and beliefs are usually referred to as having “divergence in perspective.” If you were to measure this disparity in perspective by using the ranking system of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to identify differences in life-style, environmental factors, and beliefs, you would find that persons of color and other cultural/ethnic minority groups fall between what is called “low-income” and what is described as “high-income” in the United States. (The ranking systems used by the CDC are determined by some statistical criteria which must be agreed upon by a panel of independent researchers and statisticians.) In this way, persons of color and other cultural/ethnic minority groups may be falling into what is known as “group difference” in their ability to achieve health equity.

Although it is theoretically possible for all racial and ethnic groups to be recognized as having similar socioeconomic status, there are differences in how these groups are perceived by society. Research indicates that those persons who belong to racial or ethnic groups that are less prosperous are viewed with greater negative bias than are persons belonging to wealthy racial groups. Thus, although income level is a common denominator, other dimensions such as race and ethnicity can now play a more important role than ever in defining who falls into what categories. Even if a given individual falls into both categories, there can still be stark differences in treatment – from being profiled, stereotyped, or judged solely on the basis of their race.

The remedy for racial and ethnic disparity in health care, therefore, consists in finding ways to raise the economic status of members of these groups so that they are perceived as comparable with persons in higher economic status. This will not, of course, cure the symptoms of social inequality itself. But it will provide some of the best possible opportunities for health improvement for racial and ethnic minorities.

Some groups are perceived as having more of a health disparity than others. For example, there are differences in public perception of obese versus slim persons. However, sexual orientation is a feature of an individual’s identity and not something that can be genetically tested or measured. Sexual orientation is therefore a factor of perception, and not a true predictor of health differences. It has been found, however, that gender is a factor of perception, with men being perceived as more obese than women (perhaps because men are the majority of obese persons).

Health disparities can also be caused by differential access to important resources – for example, poor nutrition or substandard hygiene. These can create differences in access to necessary resources, which can also affect health differences. In addition, there can be systematic discrimination or unequal treatment. Such treatment can result in unjustifiable gaps in access to health care. It can also create the conditions that facilitate health disparity.

Disparities in health care may also be caused by differences in treatment according to race or ethnicity. This can lead to a loss of equity in health and a deterioration in quality of life. Equity in health and in treatment is closely linked to the social attitudes that surround health care and health related issues. Attitudes can shape attitudes, ideas and behaviors that will determine the achievement of achieving greater equity and quality of life.

There are many aspects of community health that require close monitoring. These include but are not limited to the following: demographics; nutrition and food habits; environment; integration and disadvantage. All of these factors can affect health disparities. By making some simple policy changes, you can address disparities.

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